The image of the Outback, the rugged interior of red sand desert, shimmering in the intense heat is an enduring symbol of Australia for people around the world. Even if, for most Australians, the reality of our lives are as cosmopolitan and removed from the red sands of the Northern Territory as any Englishman, European or American’s is, we are still proud of the Outback. It is one of the most ancient landscapes found anywhere on the planet and it is as beautiful in its isolation as it is unique.
7:00: Getting to Alice Springs used to be a pain, having to fly in via Darwin or Adelaide, but now Tiger Airways (tigerairways.com.au) fly directly from both Sydney and Melbourne into Alice Springs for around $100. Gaze out the window and admire the beautiful MacDonnell Ranges as you come in to land on the runway. There is no sight quite like the sun coming up over Alice Springs from the air.
8:00: While Alice Springs has come on in leaps and bounds in terms of development in the last few years, it is still very much a regional town. That’s not to say the food is terrible, especially not breakfast. Red Dog Cafe might be located in the Todd Mall, which is really part of the Coles group but it serves a big breakfast (think eggs, sausages, bacon, fried tomatoes and all the rest) for less than $10 and the coffee here is pretty good too.
9:00: Head over to your hostel for the next 24 or so hours, the Pioneer YHA (yha.com.au) is a very comfortable and affordable hostel in the heart of Alice, close to just about everything. You can also get free internet. But there’s no point hanging around there for too long, you need to get out and explore Alice.
11:00: Alice Springs is the capital of Aboriginal culture in Australia and one of the best ways to either acquaint yourself with the rich history of the native people of this land or to deepen your own understanding is to visit the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre (aboriginialart.com.au). Run by respected members of the local Aboriginal community, this is a great place to become immersed in 40,000 years of human culture told through Aboriginal art, music and storytelling. They also conduct four hour bush tucker and walking tours, in case you’ve ever wanted to eat a witchetty grub.
15:00: The world famous regional medical service The Royal Flying Doctor Service (flyingdoctor.net) is based in Alice Springs, quite near to the town centre and do daily tours of the premises where they’ll show you some of the aircraft. You could even meet a doctor or two.
19:00: After an exciting day in Alice you’re probably feeling a little bit peckish by now. You may well be surprised to know that the Alice is home to an award winning restaurant in Ristorante Puccini’s which makes delicious Italian food. While the locals will probably tell you this place is really expensive, considering the quality of the food available here, it isn’t really. However if it does prove a bit pricey, there’s a cheaper bistro on the premises.
9:00: This morning we will be pushing on, into the interior even further heading towards the outrageously beautiful, natural treasure that is Kings Canyon. A place that has fascinated and enchanted human beings for thousands of years. A place that has fascinated and enchanted human beings for thousands of years. The canyon is located about halfway between Alice and our eventual destination of Uluru and is, in its own way, as beautiful as anything else to be found in the Territory.
13:30: While Kings Canyon is definitely a tough part of the world to get to ,it’s definitely worth the trek. The best place to stay is the Kings Canyon Resort (kingscanyonresort.com.au) which (for a resort) is very reasonably priced for a night. If you are driving or can’t stump up the $199 for the night the resort also has a campsite which is much more reasonable. From reception you can also organise walking tours, camel rides, motorbike and quad bike hire and even bird watching hikes. The beauty of the Canyon will leave you speechless. If not, you’ll certainly be breathless.
15:00: First thing to do after you’ve settled in is to get a look at the place from above. Helicopter Tours run on the premises and give you a wonderful perspective of the glorious Canyon in all it’s magnificent beauty.
17:00: Guided walking tours are often best during the morning, but the hotel runs a good tour around sunset as well. Go off by yourself or with a guide.
20:00: Dinner and a few beers at the Desert Oaks Bistro before a few cleansing ales to finish things off with some new friends at the Thirsty Dingo Bar, try not to bring your baby though…
9:00: Up bright and early for the final, and arguably the best part of your trip. Today you will be seeing two of the Northern Territory’s most prized natural rock formations. One of which is internationally famous, and indeed is something of visual metaphor for Australia as a whole. The other, though, is distinctly less known. It is the achingly beautiful, if somewhat alien Kata Tjuta (known colloquially as The Olgas). Three pillars stand tall out of the baking, red sands of the desert some 30 kilometers west of its more famous cousin.
14:00: After taking a quick bite to eat on the way and gazing out at the awe-inspiring desert landscape on your drive, you will by now have reached the Kata Tjuta. Located within the same national park as Uluru, Kata Tjuta is in many ways more impressive than the more famous rock itself. The highest point of the big, red dome shaped formations stand over 1,000 metres above sea level, and there are 36 individual rocks that make up the whole formation.
15:00: Jump back in the car/bus for the last 20 odd kilometers to our final spot, the peerless Uluru set deep in the heart of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (environment.gov.au). The most beautiful, awe inspiring, brilliant sight to be found anywhere in Australia.
19:00: To go through all the activities available to travellers and tourists in and around the great rock would take up more space than this whole article has been devoted to. Just enjoy it, because it is unlike anything you’ll ever experience.
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